Monday, March 10, 2014

Engine Blood's Guide To 2014: McLaren

IN SHORT: The dark lord reigns again.

HISTORY: One of the most famous and successful teams ever, we won't go too far into their successes with Fittipaldi, Hunt, Prost, Senna and Hakkinen, and instead act as the team themselves are doing, and say that none of that matters because they had a bit of a dodgy season last year.

They had tried to escape the long shadow of the Unspeakable One himself, Regent Ron Dennis, but Martin Whitmarsh was executed at the end of last season, with former Lotus boss Eric Boullier being shuffled into the dead man's shoes to become the new Darth Vader to Dennis' Emporer Palpatine.  The edict?  Improve or perish.


Source: McLaren's official website
We've got something of a reputation as McLaren bashers around here (for the record, it's not exactly the team that we don't like, it's more Ron Dennis and Lewis Hamilton), but you know what?  This may be 2014's best looking car, which is faint praise but they do deserve credit for making the idiocy of the new design features look not only deliberate but logically integrated.  Bravo, sirs.

ENGINE: Mercedes.  McLaren are the original Mercedes customers, but the relationship has soured in recent years as Mercedes bought their own team and McLaren largely showed them up until last year.  McLaren have therefore lured Honda back onto the scene, hoping for a repeat of 1988's dominance - 15 out of 16 races won, fact fans! - but they won't be ready until next year, leading to this rather awkward final campaign.


20. Kevin MAGNUSSON (DEN) - Last year: Formula Renault 3.5 (Champion, 274 points, 5 wins - Aragon, Belgium, France, Catalunya [2])

22. Jenson BUTTON (GB) - Last year: 9th (73 points, best finish: 4th, Brazil)

Engine Blood saw Kevin Magnusson's dad, Jan, beating erstwhile Indycar champion Dario Franchitti to the British Formula 3 title back in the day, live at Silverstone.  Jan too was heavily backed by McLaren, before having a bit of a tantrum and going off to underwhelm at Stewart F1, and is generally considered to be someone who never paid off on his early potential.  We say all this not to pull rank on being senior motorsports fans, but more because we haven't got a clue what Kevin will be like; a top team has plucked him from obscurity, so he must be reasonably good, and the last person who got this treatment from McLaren was a certain Lewis Hamilton...

The unlikely former world champion Jenson Button is transitioning towards the end of his career now, and if Magnusson impresses he may be unceremonious dumped for Alonso at the end of the season.  However, Button is crazy famous over in Japan, with a half-Japanese girlfriend and having made a huge effort for tsunami relief.  These things will matter to Honda, for whom he has also previously driven, and he still seems hungry, so this is a very interesting intra-team battle, as we must assume they are both fighting for a seat in 2015.

LAST YEAR: 5th (122 points)

Sergio PEREZ (MEX) - 11th (49 point, best finish: 5th, India)

Despite getting results that Force India or Sauber would have killed for, that's not really McLaren's niche, and as a brand using success in Formula One to sell incredibly expensive sub-Ferrari sportscars, their very survival hinges on getting a leg up on their rivals.  In the rush to assign blame for the only-dismal-by-their-standards season, Perez was sacrificed in part due to his rough racing with his teammate.  How sad to see a young man cast aside for an even younger man - especially when you're considerably older than both.

PROSPECTS: The Dread King has decreed that another 2013 is unacceptable; still, marking time until Honda turn up would be fine for any other team.

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